A typical screening colonoscopy for a generally healthy adult will take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Since the entire colonoscopy (from start to finish) is performed with sedation from the anesthesia physician or CRNA/CAA, this means you will be asleep for 15 to 45 minutes. A colonoscopy may take more time if there are several polyps or other lesions (problem areas) that require attention from the gastroenterologist. Since any detected polyps need to be removed to reduce the risk for developing colon cancer, your gastroenterologist will take special measures to completely resect the polyp. This requires time. The time required to remove a polyp will depend on expertise of the physician and the techniques employed to remove the polyp. Generally speaking, a polyp is a straightforward abnormality that is easily and quickly removed.
Additionally, there are other factors such as bowel prep adequacy and normal changes to your anatomy that may result in a relatively longer colonoscopy. A common plea from a GI doctor is to “drink ALL of the prep.” A clean colon results in a safer, quicker, and more complete colonoscopy!
Remember, in the vast majority of cases, 15 to 45 minutes is the expected time to exam completion and is how long your spouse/family/friend should expect your procedure to take before they come to pick you up from the procedure center.
Photo by Warren Wong.